Kiwi musician Jamie McDell ventured outside her comfort zone to write her latest record, and she couldn't be happier with the result. We chat to her ahead of her performance at Ashburton's Bite Nite 2.0 event.
With an emphasis on authentic storytelling, Jamie McDell’s third solo album, Extraordinary Girl, has been a gamechanger for the independent singer-songwriter.
Recorded in Nashville, Tennessee with award-winning Australian producer Nash Chambers, the new project (released in May) allowed the artist time to focus on what she really wanted to achieve with her sound, and the message she wanted to convey to the world.
Featuring Kasey Chambers, Bill Chambers and Tami Neilson, its country-tinged tunes draw on the influences she grew up with; John Denver, Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin and Alison Krauss.
“I knew exactly what I wanted to do and that ended up being recorded in Nashville,” McDell says of the album’s beginnings.
“Throughout my first couple of records, I always felt the basis of all my songs came from country and roots music, they just weren’t necessarily being produced that way. I think I felt a sense that I needed to get amongst my own headspace, and obviously, being in Nashville, it’s a place that really celebrates that style of writing and music, so it was really easy to accept that’s what was in my heart.”
Signed to EMI at just 16, she released her debut album Six Strings and a Sailboat, which went on to achieve Gold album sales, and three NZ Music Award nominations, winning Best Pop Album of 2013. Her sophomore record, Ask Me Anything, gained global attention, seeing album track, Moon Shines Red, featured on American TV series, Pretty Little Liars.
As she continued writing, the songs began taking on a raw and vulnerable tone, which led to the compilation of 12 songs written solely by McDell for Extraordinary Girl.
Nash Chambers pulled the whole project together over a two-day recording session, complete with a full band, at House Of Blues, Studio D in Music City.
“I think the one thing that really stuck in my mind being in Nashville and writing there, was the artists really prioritise the songs,” she says. “Often, it’s not even necessarily how well you play or sing, it’s about the song and the way you’ve written it, and the story you’re telling. That’s the key to making a great record. It’s just a nice ethos because that’s why I started making music, because I really like to write songs, so for that to be important, it was just really nice.”
This new album also marks McDell’s second independent release since going independent from 2016 - the first being a debut album, written and performed with her younger sister Tessa as Dunes.
Following a successful tour promoting the new tracks, she’s now looking forward to performing at Ashburton Youth Council’s popular Bite Nite event.
Hundreds of people descended upon Baring Square East for last year’s inaugural event, which helped raise funds for 24/7 Youth Work, and the 2.0 show is expected to be bigger and better.
Youth Council co-chair Artem Kravchenko says, Bite Nite, which will take place on 26 September, will be headlined by McDell, who will be performing songs from the latest album along with other hits. A number of local singers and dancers will also take to the stage.
“We’re super excited to have Jamie on board and hope the community will come down for a great night out,” says Kravchenko.
“Ashburton Youth Council are passionate about supporting local youth organisations, like 24/7 Youth Work, who were our fundraising recipients last year. This year we are raising funds for the Mid Canterbury Boxing Academy, which helps young people learn life skills and personal development through boxing.”
Food trucks will again line the square to serve up some great treats and street food and a photo booth will be on site for everyone to snap and print photos to remember the night.
Bite Nite will run from 5.30pm until 8pm at Baring Square East on Wednesday 26 September. Entry will be a gold coin donation with all funds raised going to support youth organisation, Mid Canterbury Boxing Academy.
For more information, check out the Ashburton Youth Council on Facebook @AshYouthCouncil
For more information on Jamie McDell’s music, visit;